The sudden, steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Taiwan quickly silenced the hopes of motivated Chinese language students when the country reimposed a ban on foreign travelers on May 17, 2021, just over a month after border restrictions had slowly been lifted. In the following weeks, the number of infected people per day increased but then decreased, and by the end of July, Taiwan was only reporting a few dozen cases daily.
Simultaneously, another unattended school term was coming to end with the following fall term waiting just around the corner. To ensure that their Chinese language studies would not be continuously postponed, hampering previously accumulated knowledge and further training, foreign students decided to appeal to the Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung, which eventually resulted in some exceptions in border control for specific groups of students.
While these special arrangements certainly received widespread acclaim, especially among students of the privileged groups, others without the golden ticket in the form of a suitable scholarship or degree program were not affected.
Next, the number of daily COVID-19 cases further fell to under 10 cases per day in September and October, during which vaccination rates for 1st and 2nd doses were steadily rising, and Taiwan was both removing local restrictions on social distancing and planning to lower the alert level soon. Despite these positive changes and the consistency of minimal or non-existent daily cases, many of which were imported and therefore efficiently controlled in mandatory quarantine, the previously excluded foreign language students remained unaddressed and therefore still unable to enter Taiwan.
Some of these students would even apply for new scholarships and may now hold one-time financial aid in their hands. Others have been accepted for enrollment in the upcoming winter term without any guarantee that they will be able to enter the country in time, supporting their ambitious plans to become Chinese language experts in the future.
Because of the extended one-and-a-half-year study break, the notably improved overall situation within the country, and the approaching new academic term, non-scholarship Chinese language students sent another letter to minister Pan on 19th October, hoping to be given much-awaited permission to enter Taiwan as soon as possible. The outcome remains unknown for the time being.
With an increasing number of people being vaccinated, over 70% with the 1st dose and over 30% with the second, it seems rather odd that a relatively small number of foreign Chinese language students are influenced by the border restrictions at this point. Especially since other students in similar situations have already been allowed to enter without causing any outbreaks. However, prompt changes in border control might guarantee a successful and mutually beneficial beginning for the international relations of Taiwan and affected students’ countries if students are allowed to hold onto their dreams and work for a fruitful future.
Thomas Karanko is a foreign student and scholarship holder who has been waiting to enter Taiwan and continue his Chinese language studies for over a year.